Dream Meat

The first time Dream Meat hit the market he didn’t believe in it – he thought it was a gimmick, a con, an outright lie.

They started bringing round mobile machines that they would hook up to sleeper’s heads, and the huge imaginary feasts they would create in their sleeping minds would manifest right before their eyes. It was a mixture of dream image sequencing and sub-atomic particle build, pulling data from the sensory equipment of the dreamer. He was sold. Gerhard bought the machine.

He wasn’t sure he had eaten anything but Dream Meat for the last few weeks now. He had been reading a recently conducted study that expressed doubts about the long term effects of the meat on people’s health. There was no definitive evidence that any damage may result from consumption, but the article was keen to point out that they just didn’t know enough about the actual substance to make any definite conclusions.

It tasted great. It was cheap – his budget for food had dropped through the floor, and it gave him more money to spend on other things. He thought he looked svelte, and that his skin had a new healthy sheen. It may have been true, or all in his head – he had stopped going out and hadn’t got any real feedback from anyone.

Insomnia was not a problem he had suffered from before, but now he found he couldn’t sleep for days at a time. He would get hungry because he couldn’t manufacture the Dream Meat. Then he would glut upon it. Feast and famine did not do well for him – the only reason his mood swings escaped notice was because he was so isolated.

Narcolepsy came next, and that brought with it the problem of overabundance of meat, of which he could not adequately dispose. He was stuffed most of the time. Was it having a narcotic effect? Something like tryptophan in turkey? He didn’t know, but he didn’t feel quite normal.

Reports started to come in of people being found strangely mutated, their bodies bursting their bounds and spreading throughout the rooms of the houses they lived in; the matter still seemed to be somehow alive, and still sentient, but it was not exactly human anymore. It changed colour as people entered the room, strange mirroring shapes formed in it, as if it were trying to communicate with it’s audience on a subconscious level.

They never found Gerhard – whatever it was that they took the flamethrowers too in that room was not Gerhard. That’s what they said. But then only a mother might recognise her child’s distinctive screaming, and she was too busy to visit.

Wakebox

Jazzed in the wakebox. A night of piped dreams and rapid learning protocols spinning in through fractal patterns, while the body gets worked over by nano-mechanics and all those little issues get gone over and worked out. He woke up and felt like a new person.

The evening before he had been on a wreck and forget mission – another sad break-up. He didn’t emote-wipes, and he had a bad experience on beat-off-the-heart, so the good old tradition of liver and kidney damaging intoxication was the option he chose. It was expensive, especially in this prohibition speakeasy joint era, and the relief was temporary at best, but in the moment? It worked.

But he also knew he had to be up and ready for it this morning, so, being of a pragmatic nature he had budgeted for a rapid repair cycle in the wakebox.

He felt a little strange as he stepped out onto the street, his feet were heavy and he felt a little light-headed. His vision started to swim and when he touched his hand to his forehead he was burning up. His on-board bio confirmed it – a translation-viral leaping from informational to meat construct. It had him pinned and he was transmitting his location somewhere.

Dark in the wakebox. Was that a dream? No – this wasn’t the luxury facility he slept in last night … this was something else.

‘Hello?’

No answer. A dart jabbed him in the thigh – cool liquid seeped up his left side in a way that suggested bio-nano-goop to him; a fucking infiltrate. Designed to do what? Reprogram? Why him? He was a nothing – a non-important bookstore clerk.

The fractals cycled up, a vocal element was introduced, and the sickly feverish feeling spread and undulated through him in rolling waves. And then it ended.

Wet and cold atop the wakebox. His own wakebox at home. How had he been transported and what was the purpose of the kidnap?

POTUS liked to shop for books. He was working that day. Standing behind the counter, slacking off, reading Catcher In The Rye, a classic.

Suited

Photomelt skin kicks in and she’s gone. Across the rooftops, invisible, no blur. But someone is following her. Her co-pilot peeking through eyes in the back of her head runs a full spectrum analysis, and this bastard somehow has a hack for penetrating the suit’s defensive scramble protocol. Considering where the suit came from and how goddamn rare it is – this is not good; really, it only means one thing … the people they stole it from are onto them.

And the guy isn’t hiding, either his pursuit, or his ability to pursue in ways no non-enhancile could manage. If you are that confident about no interference from local authorities then you already have them in your pocket.

‘Can we shake this fucker, Spey?’

‘How fast can you run, D?’

‘So, no tech back-up.’

‘It’s the muscle’s night off too.’

‘Jesus, how did they get on us so quick?’

‘We always worried that activation would compromise the integrity of any hacks we carried out. These guys are serious firepower types. Hold on though, I’m gonna memeblast the area and see if we can’t slow his roll.’

‘KK.’

The memeblast hit her too – rapid fire cycling and loud and blaring and urgent sounding. Usual inflammatory bullshit to stir up the neanderthals – guys who spent their whole lives elbow deep in violence had a different attitude when it came to violence against kids.

She pulled away from him as the first wave of have-a-go vigilantes hoved into view and got between him and her. D glanced back and she saw that these poor putzes weren’t even speed-bumps on the road.

‘Pull me up a map on the left-eye visual, Spey.’

‘K.’

‘Now plot me the shortest route to the Lead Lion.’

‘How about the Faraday Cage?’

‘Even better.’

‘Good, here you go.’

Punched up and running. She tapped the suits visual baffle unit and hoped that it might work to confuse him. She had to hope that given the prototype nature of the suit that its tech was even a smidgen more advanced than this bastard’s. Her rear-views confirmed he had actually stumbled and fallen, great she started to weave through the crowd towards the Faraday Cage – it wasn’t one of her regular haunts so the combination of a sealed system that killed all transmissions dead, there was also no data-trail he could follow to this particular establishment.

He stopped, he stood still, issued a command into the sub-vocal mike. He had a four dimensional model of the whole city (a visual of the three spatials and a timeline dotted with easiest access places that might make her “vanish”. These kids were lucky, but Wagner had been doing this for a long time, and he had a support network that made Homeland Security look like paupers. The Faraday Cage – surely they wouldn’t be that obvious? His tech team ratcheted through every single camera feed in the immediate area and picked up the tell-tale emissions they had programmed the suit with.

No need to blunder in – just make a cool entrance. If they were this obvious it wouldn’t matter that they couldn’t use the tech in the club. Even his enhancements would be dialled down to imperceptible levels by the dampening field in there.

D was chatting up one of the bouncers, an ex-paramilitary guy turned survivalist who hated corporations and government lackeys. She painted for him a great picture of the creep following after her, and he seemed to appreciate the challenge of taking the bastard out. They had some interesting toys in this place – The Pinch was a targetted EMP which had been further customised into an anti-personnel weapon. The idea of someone coming into his territory irked him – they were going to fry him.

She just knew walking in here wouldn’t be the end of it; suspected the guys tech was far off her limited radar. But in here the playing field was now levelled quite a bit. She pointed him out to the bouncer, and the guy, who was sanctioned to use the Pinch whenever he thought it necessary moved in with a rapidity and skill D had not been expecting. She watched the pinched man’s epileptic dance only briefly, and then she was out and on her way.

‘I have a ride for you two blocks over and moving towards your position – red taxi who’s on the network.’

‘Good, thanks Spey.’

She was sprinting, she saw the car, it’s door opened and she was inside.

‘Are we cloaked?’

‘We are so far off the grid in this thing you’d think we were in another country.’

‘Good. Spey, run the visuals in the Faraday and see if our pursuer is up and running.’

‘It looks like he’s in the back alley sparking.’

‘Jesus.’

‘One hell of a test-run, eh, D?’

‘Yeah, there’s some kinks to work out for sure.’

‘Yeah, the whole thing needs to be worked over until it’s locked down tight.’

‘I know you can do it.’

‘For sure – being chased by guys like that gives you some pretty strong motivation.’

D smiled, what a night.

The Story Ends

The story ends, grinds to a halt, leaves everyone unsatisfied. The music in the room wobbles like some knocked against a record player. Brent casts her an evil  eye. Tonight, Sophie’s story-telling sophistry has buckled. She has corpsed.

What went wrong? Good opening, interesting characters, hooks, foreshadowing and plenty of quirky little details. But she spots that she started to ramble that the execution got flabby. Characterisation stumbled, following closely behind an unravelling narrative. Then you hit that breakneck rush to just end the thing and get off the stage.

Her cigarette tasted shitty awful; he whiskey was a cheap burn. She so greatly underwhelmed herself at this moment that part of her was falling into the deep gravity well of depression where thoughts of never doing this again arose from. Pull yourself together, she told herself, take the paltry applause for what it was. Live to fight another day. Watch the next act and pick up some tips.

Candy rocked – it was sexy, it was fast-paced, punchy, gut-wrenching, and emotionally resonant – bitch was on fire! It cheered Sophie no end; her friend was a great storyteller. Everyone had bad nights, but when you really hit your stride you could make magic happen.

Candy came and sat down next to her.

‘Hey, girl.’

‘Hey, you were great.’

‘You sucked balls.’

‘Thanks, Candy.’

‘Ah, who gives a fuck – it’s art and we’re risking something. Takes a lot to be willing to fail at something. You walk the walk, and tomorrow night you’ll rock.’

‘Yes, I will.’

They ordered daquiris and settled in for some serious drinking.

A Lesson

Views-wire – it is burning down and the images are about to shatter and shrapnel. Marketing 101 for trend-hacktivists. He pops a cycle-focus tab and dials in on the live-splice crowd-runner that he is going to be employing. It flashes bright of a thousand surfaces and only him, with his special lenses avoids the effect.

An atrocity exhibition that pulls from every person’s individual smart-chipped lifestory unspools like a horrific birthday treat. He is dot-to-dotting for them the trajectory of their simple choices and how they feed into larger movements that shape and break the planet daily. Most of them are shell-shocked, but he knows that some of them will wake up after this.

The police do nothing because their interlinked communication system spread everything faster – they are seeing what it means to be a cop in this day and age.

It lasts half an hour – in and out quick; otherwise it’s not safe. There are turncoat hackers in the government Cracktivist movement working to clean up all those they have labelled black hats.

He flicks a switch and his suit sparks with info-dazzle and anything that tries to look at him snow-crashes.

Working The Babyfarm

Yeltsin called himself Big Mama because he spent more than half his waking life tending these maturation chambers for Multi-purpose Baby Industries. He liked the section he was in now most – the babies actually destined for families or insertion points along interstellar travels; they gave him hope.

Wander further through the factory and you had organ farm central and they were just baby-shaped spare part factories – no brainstems, so no consciousness.

Neighbouring that was Foetal Foodstuffs – where the burgermeat babies were farmed. It was gruesome, and his least favourite part.

Back over to Maturation and soothing music was being piped in, the ambient underwater lighting made him sleepy. It wasn’t a bad job, and the monitoring function was fairly easy. He had never klaxoned which was unusual, most people did, and he had heard that the panic was unbelievable. The livestock here was worth a lot of money, whatever section you looked at. Wall to wall, ceiling to floor, row-upon-row: babies.

Big Mama lit up a doobie and put on some Marley on the headphones. His pizza should arrive soon, and it was always fun seeing the shell-shocked pizza guy shepherded through by security.

Palette Change

She feels sick, but she is not the type to tell anyone that that is going through her head. They always expect her to feel great about everything anyway. She is always ready to lend an ear. People come to her. There is no one she goes to.

The sun is weak in the sky today. Weird that the  clouds look so dramatic. A bird lands on the feeder and wrestles for a second; shouldn’t be that hard, and it does get what it needs. Everything shaded oppressive – she knows she needs to change the palette, but how?

She gets dressed and decides to take herself downtown – visit the kite garden; look at the fractal butterfly chaos sculptures; go to Foetus Dreaming Park – where they pipe in self-proliferating ambient visuals and sonic from elected babies sleeping brains. A bug-thug squirts her with the legal limit three minute shopping spree meme, but she counters and fires her patented hack that makes anyone sprayed thereafter want to burn down stores. She laughs.

Some people see this place as hostile but it is an ecosystem like any other – she knows how to surf through; she is minimal impact and maximum yield. The kite garden towers above the city – offers a vertiginous perspective twisting through kaleidoscope colours, narratives dancing amidst random bursts of information all folded up in tesseracting pieces of brightly coloured paper and sticks. She spends half an hour their. Composes and discards a haiku. Buys some Miso soup. Moves on to the Butterfly Engine.

Today there is an interplay occuring – in one corner we have Euclidean geometry, and in the other non-Euclidean. It cycles fast, soundtracked with ambient bursts, feedback squawks and general whitenoise and found-sound. Too chaotic for today – too confusing. She tongues a tab and feels the voidy numbness. Off to epic scale baby art.

She gets kind of fluttery around all this, but it calms her. There is something vast and oceanic about the dreams these little beings paint for the city to enjoy. Foetus Dreaming Park – not always so peaceful, sometimes political, but now an agreed asset. She sat there under the dream of three month old’s prenatal picture of heaven and heard the soft keening of a mother’s heartbeat, and she wept. It set something loose in her; freed up some part  to move that no one ever noticed or touched. Her day brightened. It was time to go home.